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Choosing the Right Curbside Recycling Container

Available features for curbside recycling containers continue to grow


Choosing the Right Curbside Recycling Container

Color coded lids help separate material streams

Rick LeBlanc, licensed to About.com

Curbside recycling programs are on the increase. Given that experts say that as much of 75 percent of waste is recyclable, and that only 30 percent of it currently being recycled, it goes without saying that recycling will continue to grow in importance in the years ahead. Whether you are sourcing the right fleet of recycling containers for your community’s curbside recycling program (“ kerbside recycling” if you live outside of Canada and the U.S.), or whether you are a homeowner looking to purchase your own, here are some basic points to consider as you make your decision.

Container Design Features

A variety of features can ensure that you have the correct container for the correct job. Here are some additional container design considerations:

  • Container Size: Curbside containers can come in a variety of sizes. Right-sizing the container has important ramifications. For example, a large container may require less frequent pickup, saving a proportionate amount of money related to collection costs. Additionally, if recycling shifts from a multi-stream to a single stream concept with all types of material going into the same bin, then a larger size will often be warranted. With larger container size, however, may come greater weight, and this may indicate interest in other container features discussed below which can help with the load, such as design for automated lifting as well as wheels. Another consideration with respect to container size and pickup frequency is limitations imposed by material such as food waste or other organic scrap. For example, while leaving garbage or other materials for recycling to a two-week pickup frequency, a smaller size might be more appropriate to correspond to a weekly pickup.
  • Wheels: As alluded to above, container wheels can ease the burden of getting the container from the home to the street. Wheeled containers are also referred to as carts. While commercial carts will have wheels on all sides, household containers will typically have wheels on one end for the homeowner to tilt and roll to the street.
  • Lids: Lids are another important feature in order to keep out precipitation and pests, while keeping the material for recycling inside the bin. Attached lid containers are preferable in order to prevent the loss of lids. Lids can also be color coded to identify bins being used for different recycling or waste streams.
  • Compatibility with automated lifting devices: While larger containers can help reduce frequency of collection, they will require more muscle power to hoist onto the truck. Features which aid in pickup by an automated arm include a bar on front that can be hooked by the arm, as well as a cantilever design that can allow arms to pinch bins from the side under the cantilever to ensure a secure grasp.
  • Design for Durability: Recycling bins face a harsh handling environment, and must be designed with durability in mind. Vendors stress the importance of such features as single piece design of the bin, as well as ribbing and rounded corners to provide extra resilience.
  • Color: Color-coding of recycle bins is a well-established practice that aids householders and service providers alike in keeping separate the separate recycling or waste streams. Vendors often offer a range of color options. The most common color for recycling bins is blue, but other colors are used as well. For example, where there are separate recycling streams, such as organic scrap, another color will be used to signal service providers.
  • Markings: Recycling bin manufacturers can hot stamp important information onto the bin, such as community name and contact information, type of material, or other logo. Markings can help communicate what type of material goes into the bin, and if lost, how contact can be made with authorities for the bin to retrieved.
  • Tracking and Data Collection: Like in almost every other facet of logistics, data tracking is becoming increasingly important. Curbside carts are increasingly offered with RFID or barcode identification, in addition to a readable identification number. This helps communities or service providers in a number of ways, ranging from customer service, to how often people recycle, all the way to financial considerations. From a customer service standpoint, such data capture is useful for rapid follow-up when customers phone and claim they were not serviced. Such claims can be readily validated. In the case of data indicating that certain households are not recycling, some communities are following up with targeted educational material. Data capture is also useful in managing container or cart inventory, for example identifying loss and re-order requirements. Additionally, in some user-pays systems, data entry can help ensure that costs and credits are being properly assigned.
  • Interested in more about curbside recycling bins? Come back soon for our list of leading vendors.

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